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SharePoint onboarding: The Habanero ECM approach

How are thoughtful and governed collaboration spaces within SharePoint developed? Indeed, there are many ways to achieve this but I would like to share what I have learned working as part of Habanero’s enterprise content management practice.

I’ve worked closely with smaller-sized organizations for most of the year and one of the crucial consulting activities that I have been involved in is to bring new teams or departments onboard SharePoint. In most cases, the end-users in this scenario have not actively used SharePoint. Their only interactions with it might have been with the homepage of their organization’s intranet. Furthermore, important work is being done and inevitably getting buried within their organization’s network storage.

So, the question is, how do we create a more collaborative environment for an organization?

Envisioning the collaboration space

Moving to a collaboration space in SharePoint is exciting, and potentially distracting. From my experience, a roadmap for the collaboration space is a great starting point. This will give the project team and the stakeholders an idea of the key elements of the solution and how they relate back to the goals of the project.

Invest time in understanding, prioritizing, and communicating the outcomes you would like to achieve in order to generate thoughtful requirements that provides a solution that positively impacts a substantial portion of the organization.

In one of my projects, our team took on an organization’s HR department as our ECM project pilot. We put an emphasis on supporting the organization’s hiring process when we developed the collaboration space. By focusing on a departmental process that affected the entire organization, we were able to help the organization substantially decrease the time and effort spent evaluating candidates as well as help the team dramatically decrease the amount of paper they were using to manage the process.

Getting ready for content migration

The main objective of this stage is to expose organizational intelligence that has been buried in massive amounts of folders stored on a network. Emphasize to your clients that they should focus on moving things that bring immediate business value.

The next step is to start purging redundant copies of documents. A common theme we see is that there will be files named similar to the following: “Budget – Final – Copy (1)”. This is commonly referred to as a versioning sprawl, because it’s hard to tell which version is the most recent and most important. So, make sure you consult with your client’s records manager during this stage to ensure that important documents are not mistakenly disposed.

One of the roadblocks of this stage is finding time to migrate content onto SharePoint. From my experience, booking data clean up meeting times with your client before you conclude the project kick-off meeting usually works best. Allocate at least a couple of hours each week early on to prepare for data migration. Add in a deft touch by introducing the possibility of building a simple workflow to automate a manual process. This is usually a great incentive (and leverage you can use) that will keep the client committed and excited about the end goal.

Moving to the collaboration space in SharePoint

This part of the project takes a lot of persistence and discipline. It is challenging to keep a steady pace when migrating content onto SharePoint as the project team is usually juggling multiple projects simultaneously.

My experience with smaller project teams has revealed to me that there is a lot of upside when prioritizing content migration. Here’s a sample list of which content types to prioritize:

  1. Content/activities that are currently being worked on (to minimize versioning sprawl)
  2. Frequently accessed content (no more treasure hunting in the fileshare!)
  3. All other content that require records management (out-of-the-box SharePoint or third-party tools such as Collabware can look after this)

One of my projects involved keeping track of owned or leased properties and storing related transactions as electronic records. Given the sheer volume of transactions, there was a lot of content to migrate. The project team had awesome intentions as we planned on indexing all the transactions so that these could all be easily searchable and surfaced in SharePoint. The project team quickly realized the gargantuan effort required to make this possible. We had to make a decision on which transaction years we had time to migrate.

I recommended that we start fresh with SharePoint and this meant only migrating transactions created in the current year. As a compromise, we created containers for historical transactions (two decades worth) in the organization’s collaboration space and the department committed to migrating all the leftover historical transactions on their own time, tagging each with metadata.

Completing the move to SharePoint

Pat yourself on the back if you’ve gotten this far! Be prepared as this stage usually begins with a discussion that revolves around enhancements and addressing other complementary items on the roadmap. Make an effort to gather feedback from your client to learn even more from the process. Insights that you gain here will certainly be useful for the next department or initiative.

From my experience, the best-case scenario involves managing future scope creep and balancing resourcing in order to service other departments that are awaiting their own collaboration space. This could also be a great time to begin looking into additional process improvements that SharePoint can support. Developing the workflow (which was an incentive for dedicated data clean up and migration) can also be tackled now. Even better if it is a re-usable workflow!

Final thoughts

Remember that this is just the first step of the bigger journey of creating a collaborative culture within an organization via technology. I find that the most beneficial and often overlooked outcome of this process is how much your clients learn about themselves. I know that we will not always be there to look over our clients’ shoulders, and they need to recognize the boundaries of their own skillset and resources. Personally, I believe that once a project has concluded, it should be considered a success if you can feel that your client has the tools, experience, a plan for the future, and the confidence to take on this journey.